Brussels, 22 Sep 2003
Following a sharp rise in cases of sabotage at field scale trials of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in France, 1,500 researchers have signed a petition calling on the French government to take steps to protect such experiments.
Over the summer, 19 trials were disrupted in anonymous raids across the country, and according to the signatories of the petition: 'There comes a time when you have to say 'enough is enough'.'
'These repeated attacks are seriously damaging the research and development activities of the plant biology sector, an industry in which France is a world leader,' the petition states. 'We ask the government to take the necessary steps to allow agricultural researchers to carry out their work normally.'
The signatories represent both public and private sector researchers, and include two former Nobel Prize winners. They argue that the field scale trials are required to validate years of laboratory experiments, that they have full authorisation, and present no risks to people or the environment.
One explanation offered for the increase in cases of crop trial 'mowing', following a period of relative calm, was the imprisonment in July of José Bové, a leading anti GM campaigner and activist.
In June, 700 French researchers opposed to GM crop trials signed a petition in support of Mr Bové, saying that the acts of sabotage 'can be regarded as the implementation of the principle of precaution'.
One of the researchers who initiated the June petition, Michel Meuret, questioned the links between industry and the signatories of the pro GM petition, and added: 'We must not restrict ourselves to a technical debate, but also raise the question of the ethics of research.'
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